Google has made it easier than ever before for patients to find a dentist, but how easy is it for Google to find your dental website? This is the driving question behind search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO has become the elusive darling of dental marketing, and rightfully so. Search engines like Google and Yahoo are primary avenues of new patient acquisition — studies show that over half of consumers organically searched for dentists using search engines.
Optimizing your practice’s site to increase SEO is critical to appearing on these search engine results pages (SERPs), effectively making it easier for patients to find your business.
The name of the game is visibility. This is granted through dental SEO and a strategic site structure for your practice.
SEO will not only improve your website visibility in organic search, but it can also increase the ranking of specific pages on your site.
While there are a few low effort/high reward fixes that can improve optimization, it is an ongoing process that requires regular attention, maintenance, and monitoring. Think of it like flossing for your website.
Choosing and implementing keywords on your website is the gold standard in SEO. These are the words you want your dental website to rank for — meaning that when people Google these words or phrases, your practice will ideally appear on the first page.
Keywords include the name of your dental practice, services you provide, your location, and any words or phrases you could potentially “win” in a search.
They'll also give you search rank difficulty, and competition for the keywords based on how many sites are buying ads based on those words.
A high search number and low competition is your sweet spot for dental SEO keywords.
Selecting keywords is also an opportunity to look at your dental marketing strategy with fresh eyes from both a customer and competitor perspective.
Search for your page like a potential patient might search ( i.e. “Dentists in Minneapolis,” “where to get gum disease treatment,” or “kid-friendly dentist”). This gets you in the mindset of your customer and shows you which pages are already ranking — the ones you are competing against for a higher SERP spot.
After you have selected your keywords, write them down and stick to them. Using the same keywords frequently and consistently is crucial to optimization.
Time to take a look in the mirror. An SEO audit of your site is the first step in setting goals for optimizing your dental website and understanding the potential ROI.
A few key metrics to track are:
This is a great place to start for an SEO gut check, and luckily there are plenty of tools (both free and paid) to help you boost your dental SEO.
For site speed, Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that shows how quickly your site loads.
Google puts a great deal of emphasis on site speed when determining site ranking. Fast-loading sites are also better for potential patients.
Let’s say a man with a piercing toothache is looking for a dentist but your practice’s site takes 15 seconds to load. That man has already moved on.
Google Analytics can offer insight to your traffic and how your pages are being indexed.
Google Search Console or SEO service providers like Screaming Frog or MOZ provide more details on the nitty gritty SEO details (broken links, missing meta descriptions, etc.). These services provide a crawl of your website.
A crawler is a program used by search engines to create a virtual map of the pages on your website. This enables you to see how visible the pages are to search engines.
Crawler results show what you’re already doing right and where you can make some improvements.
Remember those low effort/high reward SEO fixes? Those are easiest to find on your homepage, page titles, urls, and descriptions.
Even if you have a team of amazing writers cranking high quality content, rich with dental SEO, Google will likely be unable to find it if your titles and urls are messy. They'll appear irrelevant to the content they're describing.
The best place to start optimizing is the face of your dental website: the homepage.
Your site’s homepage should be clean. Provide clear messaging about the dental services you offer. The same goes for your practice's location.
Choose a home page title and meta description carefully, as this holds the most weight for search engines. It should be concise and keyword rich with a clear message of who you are and what you do.
For example, if you are a dentist in Chicago that specializes in gum disease treatment and cosmetic surgery, your title and description might look something like this:
This shows a clear dental SEO strategy. Knowing that people are more likely to search for “Dentist in Chicago Loop” than the highly-specific name of the practice, the website chose their page title to direct searches to their sites.
Choosing optimal page titles and urls is another way to improve your dental SEO quickly.
Search engines use a <title> tag to interpret what the page is about. From there, they serve that content to users.
This applies to every page with a unique url on your dental website. Use natural language in your titles and urls, incorporating as many keywords as possible without getting too long (shoot for around 150 characters).
Urls and page titles naturally go hand-in-hand, and are easy to customize on website building services like Wix or Square Space.
Keep in mind that changing old urls should never be done without a url redirect. The redirect will prevent broken links.
Finally, you can get some quick points by optimizing page descriptions to boost click through rate. The goal is to create interest, not clickbait.
While setting up the structure of your site is crucial, the heart of SEO is in the content of your website.
Similar to your titles and descriptions, content must be highly relevant to your dental practice and your market (patients, partners, potential employees, etc.).This does not mean turning your practice into a content provider. Instead, create a few key pages that provide necessary information, and keep that content current. Outside of your home page, here are a few content opportunities:
Keep in mind that text holds more SEO weight than images and videos. Around 500 words per page will give you solid credibility with search engines. And further optimize the page by adding meta descriptions to any images or videos.
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider creating a blog on your site.
Blogs provide a way to regularly add content to your site. They also lend a way to consistently incorporate trending key phrases in dental marketing.
This can be a great goal to work towards in tandem with establishing a social media presence!
When it comes to creating content and all website optimization efforts, it’s the little things that count! Remember: you're creating a great first impression for new patients.
SEO helps you get there by making it easier for search engines and patients to find your dental website.